2013 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 new car reviews

Do you have the need for speed? Top speed is 155 mph in this Mazdaspeed3.
Not too many gizmos and gadgets in this Mazdaspeed, although Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and red-and-black sport seats all come standard.

The 2013 Mazdaspeed3 is an understated piece of machinery. No extra doodads or thingamajigs. It just drives. No frills, but definite thrills in this 263-horsepower brute. Who says brains beat brawn?

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David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Ah, life is funny. When presented with a car, as gearheads we almost always say the same thing: needs more power.

Sure, you can always add more power to the Mazdaspeed3, but in stock form it doesn't leave you wanting. However, all that power does come with a price: torque steer.

So, whether or not this car appeals to you depends on your perspective. If you fondly recall the days of turbo Shelby Dodges, then the Mazdaspeed3 is the perfect machine. If you believe that powerful cars shouldn't steer with their driving wheels, well, then maybe this one isn't quite for you.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin

This Mazdaspeed 3 really demonstrates how far cars have come in the last 20 years or so. Slotting in pricewise above the bottom feeders, but below the $30K priceline, it isn't an expensive car, it's about average.

For an "average" car, it is extremely well equipped. The Speed 3 is comfortable, very practical and roomy. It also handles much better than an "average" car. Of course as our friends in Boston would say.....it's also Wicked Fast! By any measure, this is a ton of car for the money. The funny thing is, as awesome as the Mazdaspeed 3 is, I don't want one.

The problem the Mazdaspeed 3 faces is that competition in this price segment is incredibly stiff. Similar choices include the new Focus ST, the Subaru WRX, the Civic Si, and folks might even cross-shop this hatch with the BRZ-FR-S twins. This is a tough crowd to run in, and the Speed 3 holds it own, but it's the little things that matter to me, and that's where this car fails to push my buttons.

With any extremely powerful front driver, a little torque steer is to be expected. What you encounter in the Speed 3 though is Turbo GLH type wheel-yanking. It's almost comical how much effect the gas pedal has on the steering wheel. No doubt the engineers at Mazda sprinkled their pixie dust on the Speed 3 in an attempt to alleviate the torque steer problem, but in doing so, they eliminated most of the steering feel. Also, while the ride is firm and acceptable on smooth roads, when the going gets bumpy, the ride gets jouncy. It's not bad, but again, it's competition is awfully good.

The Mazdaspeed 3 is a really, really good car, but it is swimming with sharks. If it came in an extremely attractive package, I may be able to overlook some of the cars flaws. Instead it is flamboyantly ugly. It's the kind of ugly that makes children laugh and point, as the owner slinks behind the wheel. This is one part of the Speed 3 that Mazda would have been wise to have kept "average".

I couldn't blame anyone for buying a Mazdaspeed 3, but it won't be this guy.

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View comments on the GRM forums
darkbuddha HalfDork
12/20/12 11:28 a.m.

When I was looking this past year, the MS3 was a strong competitor on my list. It is a standard by which others are measured after all, though seemingly only in terms of outright speed and excessive torque steer. It's a helluva deal for what it offers, but with the competition out now, it's showing its age and lack of refinement a bit. What got my coin? Focus ST. Still waiting on a proper GRM review on it... I think you'll like it.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/20/12 12:00 p.m.


Sure, I'll take a 87 Grand National, a 65 Riv, maybe even a 70 Stage I Skylark. Can't say there is a Camry I'd want though.....

I never said the Speed 3 was for an average person, just that it's price was "average". It's a good deal if it turns you on....for me, it didn't. I prefer a car with pleasing communication through the steering wheel, a great gearbox, and I'd like it wrapped in a semi-attractive package. For me, the Speed 3 fails to deliver. Raw speed is great....but it only goes so far.

pinchvalve MegaDork
12/21/12 7:38 a.m.

This was one of my top choices when it came out, but Mazda wasn't dealing on the MS3 and a new baby meant no fun wagonwette for me. I've been watching the car ever since.

In two years when I am back to new-car buying mode however, the MS3 will no longer be my top pick. The Focus ST has eclipsed it and now that the X1 is available here, I may even be cross shopping BMW. (Less power but rear-drive and a BMW)

belteshazzar UberDork
12/21/12 10:06 a.m.

what a great time to be alive, when a 260hp turbo hatchback for average money is not enough to set the world on fire.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/21/12 11:10 a.m.

belteshazzar----- exactly! The choices for the enthusiast have never been better!

kanaric Dork
1/1/13 3:19 a.m.

This is a very good car but for the money I bought a WRX instead. No torque steer, significantly less ugly..... and the WRX is not an attractive car itsself.

Really every car today that is a good driver looks terrible.

Camaro looks like some transformers abortion designed by a fired Japanese design team.

BMWs looks ultra bland cars for old people.

Japanese tuner cars look garish to an extreme in all the wrong ways.

A mustang is probably the only car that looks good and handles great. Maybe a 1 Series M from an otherwise vanilla bland company of BMW as well.

Then we have the Challenger that looks great but is essentially a retirees cruiser boat.

mistanfo UltraDork
1/6/13 6:42 p.m.

I still want to see that engine in an MX-5. Yes, the firewall would have to be changed slightly, but it's nothing that a mini-sledge couldn't handle.

The0retical Dork
5/24/13 4:43 p.m.

I actually did cross shop one of these with the FRS/BRZ and the Focus ST. I ended up with the Mazda.

The FRS was fun to drive but felt cheap. Things rattled and made hollow noises when I shut doors and the trunk. The interior felt a bit awkward. I enjoyed driving but something wasn't there.

My concern with the Focus ST was the braking to control torque steer. I want to wait a couple of years to see what problems they develop. The other major question I had that no one could answer was: If drive it hard will I roast the brakes? All the reviewers of the ST heaped praise onto it but no one seemed to have a good answer to how the brakes hold up under track and extreme hot weather driving conditions (I live in a desert where it'll cap 115 on a bad day).

So I ended up with a Speed3. It didn't take too long to figure out that it was the car for me when I scared the hell out both myself and the salesman on an on ramp. I don't think I've stepped out of it once since I bought it without a grin on my face.

8/23/13 1:00 a.m.

I've driven the Focus ST, the GTI, the WRX an the MS3 on the track and the road, I bought a 2012 MS3 for 21k, it was a no brainer, none of the other cars were actually within 4-5k of this price (the real price paid, not invoice or MSRP) and by the way, you can drive the hell out of the MS3 on the track, the brakes, although a little wooden, NEVER fade and if you have smooth inputs, the torque steer is completely negotiable, and OMG, it handles wonderfully, very aggressive factory set toe and camber, and its a reliable and safe car. I don't care what it looks like, I care that it's relatively practical and you can push it to its limits over and over again, and its simply much cheaper. BTW, a friend brought his new Subaru BRZ to the track and it was wonderful for about 10 minutes and then the brake pads disintegrated and scored the rotors, of course this is a cheap and easy fix, its a great car frankly, but it's cheap and still its more expensive than a MS3, are you getting the theme, there isn't anything close in price, it's a beast and really, the steering feel is very very good, as is turn in, I can keep going, but you get the point.

Jane Soliman
Jane Soliman New Reader
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

The 2013 Mazdaspeed3 is an understated piece of machinery. No extra doodads or thingamajigs. It just drives. No frills, but definite thrills in this 263-horsepower brute. Who says brains beat brawn?

Like what you read here? You can get a whole magazine full of these types of articles delivered to your home or shop 8 times a year. Subscribe now or visit the Grassroots Motorsports online store for back issues.
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